Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Reading: Proverbs 8:1-21 
 
The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. - Proverbs 8:13 
 
There is another verse in Proverbs that goes like this, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall." An abbreviated version of this same verse is , "Pride goeth before the fall." Pride apparently goes along with evil and arrogance. 
 
Pride is the original sin after all. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they consumed a lust for power and control which was beyond the measure of who they were as human beings, as God had created them. Pride not only separates us from God but also separates us from one another. 
 
I have driven down many a highway in which I have read bumper stickers that read, "Proud parent of an Honor Student," or "Proud to be a Marine," or "Proud to be an American." This kind of pride is a harmless connection with an allegiance to something or has to do with a swelling heart over an another's achievement. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such pride. It is when pride is an attempt to elevate one's self importance at the expense of another in which pride becomes sin. 
 
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as longs as you are looking down, you cannot see anything that is above you." Pride tries to put one's self above others and disregards the importance of God's place in one's life. To be humble is what it means to be human; nothing more and nothing less. To know your place in the scheme of things is to cast pride aside and embrace your place before God and the infinite universe that God has created.  
 
Let us pray: O God, take away our selfish pride and replace it with a sense of humility by knowing our place before you and in the world which you have created. Amen  
 
 
Posted By: 1/26/2021 10:29:20 PM

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Reading: Acts 5:33-42 
 
And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as Messiah. - Acts 5:42
 
Early church father, Tertullian, once wrote, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Over the centuries the church has tended to grow when it faced persecution. The same holds true to a certain degree today. The church grew considerably in the first century, and considering how dedicated the faithful were, it is no wonder. As we read in Acts, the followers of Jesus were more than willing to suffer for the cause to spread his name. 
 
While living in South Africa as a teenager, I attended a public school. Even though the school was public, there were daily assemblies in which we sang hymns, some of the words of those hymns I remember to this day, and prayer. It was at Bryanston High School where I met Dean. Dean always had a Bible under his arm and a smile on his face. I asked Dean one day why he carried the Bible around with him. This was an opening for him to share about Jesus with me.
 
Even though there was an openness about Christianity at Bryanston High School, Dean was often made fun of by others for carrying around a Bible. But Dean didn't care. He was willing to absorb the ridicule because of his "love for Jesus." I admired Dean for that. His boldness and courage was inviting to me to learn more about Christ. I never knew what ever became of Dean but the seed of the gospel was planted and grew at Bryanston and other places because of Dean's openness to share the gospel with others.  
 
Let us pray: May the Spirit of boldness move within us, O Lord, to share the gospel with others. May we move out in faith into the world that is sometimes cruel and harsh, but enjoy the peace in knowing that your love for all has been shared through us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/25/2021 8:16:55 PM

Monday, January 25, 2021
Reading: Psalm 46 
 
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. - Psalm 46:1-2 
 
These words are often referred to in times of mourning, such as, at a funeral of a loved one. I have used these words of Psalm 46 while visiting with the bereaved as a source of comfort. Those who are grieving, feel as though their lives have been shaken at the death of a loved one. When lives have been unalterably changed by the loss of someone whom they loved it is a great comfort to know that God is "a very present help in trouble."
 
While growing up, I had pets. We had the family dogs through the years, but I also had little critters, such as, gerbils, mice, and hamsters. I learned about the cycle of life and death from these pets. Each time one of the small pets died, I would make a little cross for them, have a little service for them, and bury them in a little pet cemetery across the street from where we lived. I was sad when they died, but it wasn't until my grandfather died that I understood more fully the pain of grief and a keener sense of my own mortality.  
 
At that time, I had no understanding of finding comfort in God as a source of refuge and strength. Not to sound overly morbid here but all I  can remember of the funeral for my grandfather was seeing his lifeless body lying in the casket. I didn't remember the words of the pastor or even the message in the music at his service. I don't even recall any words of comfort that were shared at the visitation.  It was in seeing the pain in the faces of my father, mother, and grandmother whereby I began to understand grief and its impact. 
 
We all grieve. That is a given. There is no escaping it. But the sadness that is experienced in grieving is not strictly a human phenomenon. I have seen and heard about family pets that display the behavior of grieving at a loss. We hear in scripture about how the whole of creation grieves together until it is liberated from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:18-21).  
 
God is concerned about his creation and is grieved when we grieve and is saddened when what he has made is misused and abused. When our lives are shaken by the death of someone we love and when the mountains in the depths of the seas are shaken and the earth changes, we shall not fear, for God is with us, a very present help in time of trouble. 
 
Let us pray: When we are grieving, O God, we can find comfort knowing that you are with us as our refuge and strength. Amen.
Posted By: 1/23/2021 10:23:34 AM

Sunday, January 24, 2021
Reading: Mark 1:14-20 
 
And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 
- Mark 1:17-18 
 
One of Mark's favorite words is "Immediate." He uses the word quite often in his gospel to emphasize the urgency of getting out the Good News quickly. Mark is the first of four gospels in the biblical canon that was written. His is also the briefest of the four gospels. The sense of urgency has to do with Mark's belief, as well as his audience, that Jesus is coming again soon. Therefore, there's little or no time in which to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
 
What would it look like that everyone would respond with such decidedness as these fishermen? Simon Peter and Andrew left their nets immediately and James and John were immediately called and followed Jesus in the same vein as the other two. What prompted these four to give an immediate response to Jesus' bidding to follow him is a mystery. Perhaps they'd already heard about Jesus or maybe they had listened to his teaching sometime before this encounter by the sea. 
 
Let's face it, Lutheran Christians are not the greatest evangelizers, at least not in the United States. In Tanzania, the gospel has spread with the sense of immediacy like Mark's gospel. In fact, many congregations in Tanzania have resident evangelists, who are trained and work with the pastor much like deacons. There is a great shortage of pastors in Tanzania, and so evangelists and lay members have taken on a great deal to "get the job done." In my visit to Tanzania in 2001 with our sister congregation at Kidabaga, I couldn't help but notice the sense of joy that radiated from the members of the congregation, especially in worship. There was no lack of singing out and there was dancing in the aisles, and shouts of "amen" during the sermon.
 
I'm not saying that we should or even could replicate what is going on in Tanzania. But unless there is a renewed sense of joy and immediacy in spreading the gospel, then we will continue to see the steady decline of the Lutheran church in America. Christ may not be coming back tomorrow or even the next day,  however, we need to have the sense of urgency as the four fishermen who were called by the Sea of Galilee. 
 
Let us pray: You call us, O Lord, to come follow you. Stir up in us your Spirit to arouse within us the urgent sense of spreading the message of your love for the world. Amen.  
 
Posted By: 1/23/2021 8:47:27 AM

Saturday, January 23, 2021
Reading: Luke 10:13-16 
 
"Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me." 
- Luke 10:16 
 
Jesus sent out seventy-two ahead of him to go from town to town to pave the way for his ministry in those places. He tells them to bring no money or bag with them or sandals. I would think that sandals as one travels from town to town would be important, but I guess not. Jesus also tells them that whenever they enter a house they are to proclaim blessings upon that household. And they are to eat and drink whatever is offered them. But if they are met with rejection, they are to go out into the streets of that town to declare, "Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you' 
 
Furthermore, Jesus tells them, "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." Withholding hospitality is one thing, but rejecting God's word is another. 
 
This passage causes me to consider the important matters of hospitality and hearing God's word in my life. Do I welcome the stranger in my midst? How hospitable are we as a church, even in this time of a pandemic? Am I welcoming of God's word in my life, attentively listening to what God is saying to me through others? How welcoming are we as a church at listening to God's word beyond what we hear in worship?  Welcoming others and welcoming God's word go hand in hand I think. It means opening ourselves up to the possibilities of what God can do to us and through us. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, open our ears to be attentive to what you are saying to us. Open our hearts, also, to welcome others as a sign of what your word is saying. In Jesus' name. Amen. 
Posted By: 1/22/2021 10:05:31 AM

Friday, January 22, 2021
Reading: Psalm 62:5-12
 
One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: "Power belongs to you, God, and with you, LORD is unfailing love." 
- Psalm 62:11-12a 
 
The two things that the psalmist has heard, God's power and love, are unfailing. These two things are the creative force of God in which God's power and love sustains all that exists.  
 
We look for power, don't we, when we're feeling powerless. When we are feeling helpless, we look for a power greater than ourselves to uphold and sustain us. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been so effective for so many because it understands where ultimate power lies. The first step is, "I admit that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable. The second step declares, "I have come to believe that there is a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity. The third step states, "I have made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him. These first three steps all have to do with the realization where true power resides and a relinquishing of that power we think we may hold.
 
The Twelve Steps of AA can be applied to most anything in our lives that have taken control of us, including the delusion that we have ultimate control of all that takes place in our lives. The truth is that there are many things in our lives that have power over us and take control of certain aspects of our lives. 
 
When we look to the power of God in our lives, what we will find is an unwavering love that God has for us. This is what it means to be human, to come to the realization and acceptance that I don't have control of everything, nor is it good for us to believe that we do. We can rest in God's unfailing love, trusting that God will take care of us, even when we may feel that things are falling apart around us.
 
Let us pray:  O Lord, help me to let go of the need to control everything in my life - to let go, and let you be God and allow myself to be human. Amen.
Posted By: 1/21/2021 10:13:48 AM

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Reading: Jeremiah 19:1-15 
 
"Then you shall break the jug in the sight of those who go with you, and shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as lone breaks a potter's vessel, so that it can never be mended.'" -  Jeremiah 19:10-11 
 
This is one of the most vivid images of sin in the whole of scripture, the prophet Jeremiah taking an earthen vessel and breaking it as in illustration of the broken relationship between God and God's people. And this is what sin is, it is a brokenness that exists between God and us and between one other. 
 
In my childhood, my parents would go out once in a while to socialize with their friends. But you know the old adage, "When the cat is away, the mice come out to play."  For my brother and me, it would often be in the form of roughhousing. Inevitably, we ended up breaking something. We became experts at repairing those things we broke. With a little glue and shoe polish, those broken objects looked good as new. Eventually, it caught up to us and we had to confess to our mother how it it that we came to break something. 
 
That brokenness takes place in all kinds of ways, not just in lying to a parent about damaging something that didn't belong to the person who'd  broken the object. We're motivated by selfishness more often than we care to admit. Anything that jeopardizes our relationship with God or with others leads toward a broken relationship. Call it survival or call it self-preservation, or a need for our relationships to be uninterrupted,  but we are called to come to ourselves, as it were, realize our short comings and confess them before God. This is no small feat, especially when we try to hide our sin or pretend it doesn't exist. But we have a God who is gracious and merciful and abounds in steadfast love if we but come to him. 
 
Let us pray: Dear Lord, move us by your Spirit to confess our sin to you and toward one another, so that we may begin the process of mending our relationships through forgiveness. Amen. 
 
Posted By: 1/20/2021 11:06:50 PM

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 
Reading: Genesis 16:1-14
 
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 
- Genesis 16:7 
 
The angel of the Lord, it says in Genesis, watched over Hagar in her distress when she ran away from Sarai because Sarai mistreated her. Sarai, being barren, encouraged Abram to take her handmaid and conceive a child.  But out of jealousy, Sarai looked upon her handmaid who was expecting a child with Abram, with contempt and then was angry with Abram.
 
What I find so interesting in this story, other than the chosen one's of God, Abram and Sarai, revealing their "all-too-human-side," was the angel's response to the angel of the Lord who actually encouraged Hagar to return to Sarai and "submit to her." But then comes the promise. The angel declares to Hagar, "I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude." Hagar receives the same promise as Abram received from the Lord that he shall be the father of a multitude.
 
Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham, becomes the direct descendant of the Arab people. Even though Arabs and Jews share a common father, Abraham, they have been continually at odds with one another through time. Even now, instead of treating each other as kindred, having a common lineage, they are at odds with one another. This is no different than all of our common ancestry as human beings, that we are all as sisters and brothers to one another on this planet because of our common humanity.
 
But like the characters in the story in Genesis, there is jealousy, anger, envy, and hatred involved that keeps us apart. Rather than seeking our commonality, we concentrate on our differences, and never get to the point of seeing each other as kindred sharing the same space called earth.  
 
Let us pray: You call us each, O Lord, to live in your kingdom peaceably, to learn to live together as sisters and brothers of our common humanity. Teach us to be patient, understanding, and accepting of one another so that we may live in harmony together. Amen.  
 
Posted By: 1/19/2021 10:18:32 PM

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Reading: Acts 5:1-11  
 
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And Great fear seized all who heard what had happened.  - Acts 5:5
 
This story of Ananias and Sapphira has always intrigued me. I'm not sure what the lesson of the story is about other than don't cross the Lord, the Church, or the Holy Spirit otherwise you'll end up dead. I'm not sure that this was the first time someone cheated the church or the Lord nor would it be the last. And I'm sure not in every incident were they smote by God. I'm sure that Luke wrote it into the book of Acts as an example for many.
 
In last Sunday's sermon, I told a story about my negative experience at Bible Camp. It was mainly due to the fact that I felt alone and homesick. What I didn't share was a particular experience I had at camp that I'm not too proud to tell. It was the last full day at camp and we closed with a chapel service. It was at that service that the campers were supposed to bring their offering to worship. Apparently, I'd forgotten to save back money for the offering. I'd spent it at the canteen. Each camper was supposed to bring their offering forward as the pastor, who literally stood almost seven feet tall held the offering plate. The moment came for me to come forward with my offering, of which I had none. I pretended to put my money in the offering as I stared into the pastor's eyes, hoping he wouldn't notice. To this day, I never did know if he knew. But I knew and God knew. And I've had to live with the guilt ever since.  
 
I wasn't smote by God at that moment for holding back something that didn't belong to me. It belonged to God. But the lesson I learned is that giving is a sacred act. God is generous to us, and expects us to be generous in return. When we withhold that which belongs to God we break a sacred trust.  Who are we to withhold the gifts God has given to us? We will come up with excuses or we will try to hide the fact that we have not given as we ought. At the end of the day, we will not ever regret our giving. Just the opposite, we will regret that we withheld in our giving.
 
Let us pray: Gracious and giving God, in your abundance, to have entrusted to us many things. Shape us by the example of your Son who gave his very life, out of your great love for us. Amen. 
 
I  
Posted By: 1/18/2021 8:51:57 PM

Monday, January 18, 2012
Reading: Psalm 86 
 
For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.  - Psalm 86:13 
 
Sheol is a place of darkness where the dead go. In the Greek it is called Hades. By the time of Jesus, it was common for Jews to believe the the righteous who had died will go to a place of comfort (paradise) while the wicked will go to Sheol or a place of torment. Another word that can be used for Sheol is hell. Although the concept of hell is not found in the Old Testament, it is a concept that appears chiefly in Matthew's gospel as well as Thessalonians, Jude and Revelation. The concept of hell is more well developed in the doctrines of the church.
 
Hell is a concept that can certainly be manifested in the here and now. If your concept of hell includes those things that are miserable or horrifying to you or pushed to the limits of what you'd consider evil, then hell on earth is something which can be very real to you. Or consider someone who has had to endure physical, sexual, or mental abuse throughout their childhood then hell is very real to that person. Or if someone has lived in substandard conditions in which poverty and hunger is something that creates woe for that person on a daily basis, then hell very much exists. 
 
The psalmist names the the greatest power that confronts hell, the steadfast love of the Lord. The psalmist declares, in fact, that the Lord has delivered his soul from the very depths of Sheol. God's love can deliver us from whatever hell we may be experiencing. Love can lift us up from whatever dark pit we may find ourselves.
 
Let us pray: O Lord, deliver us by your right hand from those places or situations in which we may find ourselves in deep darkness. Your love shines brightly to save us from whatever Sheol in which we are now living. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/16/2021 3:31:06 PM

Sunday, January 17, 2021
Reading: John 1:43-51 
 
Philip said to Nathanael, "Come and see." - John 1:46b 
 
In the summer months growing up at Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, my cousin and I would do all kinds of things together. We would swim, fish, go water skiing, and play yard games. One summer, we had the notion of building a teepee in the woods across from our cabin. We thought that this would be a fun thing to construct a teepee using what branches that we could find in the woods and use an old bed spread that our grandmother let us use. 
 
Upon completion of the teepee, we were proud of our handiwork and invited the grown-ups to come and see what we'd made. There was a trail leading into the woods to where the teepee was located. My cousin and I headed the line to where we wanted them to go. Suddenly, we heard some commotion, actually a lot of commotion. There was yelling and screaming and those of us in the front of the line couldn't imagine what was happening. As it turned out, someone had stepped on a nest of ground wasps. My aunt was the unfortunate one who was in the back of the line who received most of the stings. 
 
In the gospel, Philip's invitation to Nathanael to "come and see" was a good thing. it didn't turn out to be a painful and bad experience. It was an invitation to an encounter with the living Christ. Nathanael, the naysayer, by inquiring, "If anything good can come out of Nazareth," turned into Jesus' chief advocate by calling him "the Son of God, the King of Israel."  
 
Our problem with evangelism, in inviting others to "come and see" Jesus is that we think that it's going to be a negative and painful experience for us. We needlessly are filled with fear and anxiety that our invitation will be turned down, or worse yet, that those whom we invite will reject us. The truth be known is that God doesn't give us any more than we can handle. It doesn't have to be a negative experience at all. The invitation doesn't have to involve arm twisting or debating with others. It is simply an invitation for others to encounter the living Christ for themselves and let God take care of the rest. 
 
Let us pray: As we have been invited to encounter Christ through others, O Lord, so also are we to invite others to come and see Jesus for themselves. Give us the courage to step out in faith and proclaim, "Come and see!" Amen.  
Posted By: 1/16/2021 2:41:43 PM

Saturday, January 16, 2021
Reading: Matthew 15:1-13 
 
Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand; it is not what goes into the mouth that defile a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defile."  - Matthew 15:10 
 
Didn't your mother ever ask you if you washed your hands as you were sitting down at the table for dinner? You know that she was just looking out for you so that you don't get sick or anything. After all, who knows how many germs were on your hands that you brought to the dinner table. Chances are, you weren't going to get sick from not washing your hands before eating dinner. 
 
Isn't that what the law was set up for in order to look out for our welfare? The law is present to protect us and to safeguard our well-being. It's when the law becomes more important than the people for which they were created in the first place where it becomes an issue. When the law becomes the means by which we are right with God it becomes problematic. 
 
The  difficulty that Jesus had with the Pharisees was that the keeping of the law didn't make one right with God. They were so fixated on the law that it superseded their relationship with God. Jesus argument with the Pharisees was a matter of the heart, the seat of motivation. God doesn't care about our outward observances of the law. It is what is happening inside of us what matters to God. What defiles a person is what comes out of a person. 
 
God cares what goes on inside of each and every one of us. What are our motives for what we do? Are our intentions pure and honorable or are they corrupted by greed, selfishness, and envy. God knows what goes on in our hearts. That may seem like a threat to us, but in actuality, is a gift.  God desires to know what is in our hearts, for it is from the heart where all kinds of evil things arise. It is also from the heart where we come closer to God and  of which good things can arise. 
 
Let us pray: Create in me a clean heart O God, and let a right spirit dwell within me. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/15/2021 10:52:48 PM

Friday, January 14, 2021
Reading: Acts 13:16-25 
 
"After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do anything I want him to do.'"  - Acts 13:22
 
David was a man after God's own heart. This is central to the Old Testament plan of God that King David was all about doing the will of God. This was David's passion and drive, to be about God's will above anything else. This is why David was considered by the biblical writers as the foremost king of Israel and was heralded as the ruler who reigned during what was considered the "Golden Age of Israel."
 
What is so remarkable about David, other than being singularly about God's will throughout his life, was how God chose him, this humble and unlikely shepherd boy to be king. David was not just King of Israel, but he was considered the very quintessential king that ever ruled in Israel. David, in fact, didn't just rule Israel but he was also the King of Judah and united the two kingdoms.
 
When we look back in scripture we can see the David is called, "a man after God's own heart" twice. The first time was by Samuel who anointed David as Saul's successor (1 Samuel 13:14). The second was by the Aposte Paul who recounted Israe's history (Act 13:22). Now does the mean that David was perfect? By no means. We can all recall David's sorted affair with Bathsheba, how he committed adultery with her. But there are other numerous references of David's imperfections. But this only makes David human, right? In fact, the Bible is littered with characters, even those of God's own choosing, who were less than stellar. And yet, God forgave them and still used them for God's purposes. 
 
This means that there is hope for us. I can't speak for you, but I certainly can speak for myself, when I say that I am not squeeky clean." I have faults and many failures. And yet, I know that God has forgiven me. This is the promise that we live by and the promise that is shared. We are forgiven people of God who, in turn, are in the business of forgiving others. This is our calling as people of God.
 
Let us pray: O God, we thank you for those, like David, who has shown to us the way of being passionate about your will. Use us, also, to be stewards of your will who also are familiar with the art of forgiveness. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/14/2021 5:13:27 PM

Thursday, January 14, 2021
Reading: Psalm 1391-6; 13-18
 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.  - Psalm 139:14 
 
In this age of the importance of body image in our culture, this verse may be a tough one to swallow. But as the saying goes, "beauty is skin deep," or as another one goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Unfortunately, our self image is so bound to our body image that it's difficult for us to look past this, how it is that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God. 
 
The Hebrew mindset is holistic in their approach of body, mind and spirit that are all integrated together. This is a contrast to the overly-commercialized world in which we live that tells us that we need to "look good in order to feel good" about ourselves. Granted, we each have only one self that we are called upon to look after.
 
We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, which means on the one hand, that we have an important task of taking good care of ourselves. On the other hand, we have the assurance that we are wonderfully made because, after all, God made us. Years ago, I remember seeing a poster with a picture of a child in a clown costume that read, "God doesn't make junk!" The message of that poster has since stuck with me, to remind me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God looks upon each and every one of us with the eyes of delight. God revels in us, the one's whom God has made in his image. 
 
Let us pray: Lord God, you have fearfully and wonderfully made us - our whole selves. Give to us such as sense of delight as you have in us so as to take care of that with which you have entrusted us. Amen. 
 
 
Posted By: 1/13/2021 3:31:00 PM

Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Reading: John 1:29-34 
 
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  - John 1:29 
 
This last Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord. We heard the account of Jesus' baptism from Mark's gospel. Mark's telling of the baptism of Jesus is decidedly different than in John's gospel. John focuses on the telling of Jesus' baptism through the voice of John the Baptizer. Mark, in typical fashion, shares the bare facts and moves on, but with a more intimate account between Father and Son.
 
If you're old enough, like me, to remember "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, you'd recall Johnny's warm up the audience man, Ed McMahon. He was the one to get the crowd revved up before Carson came on stage. John the Baptizer is like the Ed McMahon for Jesus. warming up the crowd for his coming onto the world's stage. John the Baptizer is the one who is constantly pointing to the main act, namely Jesus, the Lamb of God. John realizes that he is not the light but he is the one who is pointing others toward the "one true light that was coming into the world." 
 
Sometimes it's not easy to play second fiddle. But in order for the orchestra to function well, not all the instruments can be firsts. In order to bring harmony and drama to a piece of music it takes a bit of humility and knowing your place in the orchestra. John knew that about himself. There was no ego involved with John at all. Eccentric, maybe, considering the clothes he chose to wear and the language he sometimes used. But he definitely knew his place on the stage for God's will for the world. 
 
We can take a cue from John's ministry. It's not about us. It's never been about us. It's been about the One whom God has sent to take away the sin of the world. We are mere players in the world who will do our bit as instruments of God's will for the world he loves. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, as you would use us as instruments of your will for the world, may we continually point to the Lamb of God whose love extends to forgiving our sin. Amen. 
Posted By: 1/12/2021 6:20:41 PM

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Reading: Acts 22::2-16 
 
I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' Then he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'  - Acts 22:8 
 
I've always thought this question of Saul's to Jesus a bit strange. He is answering is own question. After he is blinded on his way to Damascus, Saul is thrown to the ground by a brilliant light, and a voice comes to him, saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Saul, who shall later be named Paul (which means small, of little account, or humbled) is told, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting." Paul is blinded by the light and is told by the Lord to go to Damascus where he will receive further instructions. 
 
We have a Yorkshire terrier that is about ten years old and is blind. He has allergies that have affected his eyesight so that he can no longer see. Snickers is totally dependent upon us for everything. Our voices will lead him to where he ought to go, outside several times a day, and back to the security of his kennel. He has developed a keen sense of smell so whenever we are preparing food in the kitchen he starts to whine loudly. His hearing is going also, so it's difficult for Snickers to navigate very well. As I said, he is quite dependent on us for everything.
 
When Saul was blinded, he was quite helpless. He had to rely on and trust in the voice of the Lord to instruct him as to what he had to do. Eventually, the scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. This experience brought about a conversion for Saul who became Paul, the one who was humbled. An experience like Paul's would bring about a keen sense of complete and utter dependence upon God.
 
This is what conversion is really, isn't it? It is a complete and utter sense of dependence upon God. It is a reliance upon God for everything. This doesn't make one into an apathetic couch potato, mind you. But as one who realizes that he or she is a humble servant of the Lord who derives his or her strength from the Lord.
 
Let us pray: O Lord, may we become blinded to our own selfish ambitions which often will work against your will for our lives. May we see more clearly our role in the world as your humble servants. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/11/2021 6:18:36 PM

Monday, January 11, 2021
Reading: Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36 
 
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. - Psalm 69:1 
 
Ever since the beginning, we hear in Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth, there was water. Darkness covered the face of the deep, when the wind or Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters. From the murky chaos, God created order of the water. Later on in Genesis we hear that God saw the wickedness of humankind was great on the earth, so God caused a great flood to come upon the earth to destroy it and all it's inhabitants. Noah and his family were spared and two of every kind of living creature. It was the water of the Red Sea that destroyed pharaoh and his army while they were chasing the Hebrews. And it was the water that saved God's people from the oppressor's hand as God's servant Moses parted the sea for the people of God to cross in safety. Jesus rose up from the waters of his baptism in the river Jordan as God's Beloved Son, to begin his public ministry. 
 
Water has been used by God to create and destroy. In the waters of our own baptism we died to an old self and rose up out of those waters a new self in Christ.  In the waters of baptism the death and resurrection of Christ is revealed in us. From those waters we are no longer our own. but have been claimed by God. We have been drawn out of the waters of our baptism, commissioned to live for God in Christ. 
 
We take water for granted, living in this land of 10,000 lakes. There are many places in the world where water is a rare commodity. When I visited Tanzania in 2001, I couldn't help but notice the common scene of women carrying five gallon buckets of water on the sides of roads to bring to their families. In some cases, these women had to travel a great distance to get clean water for their families. One of the projects that we were involved in as a congregation at that time was the wells project. Wells would be drilled for water in towns throughout Tanzania so that water would be accessible for all and women wouldn't have to travel each day to provide water for their families. 
 
As water is a basic element necessary to sustain human life and all life for that matter, we know all too well how water can destroy. Flood waters can take out whole villages and sweep away whole towns and cities in a matter of moments. The psalmist mentions water as a symbol of threat or destruction. It is an image that is commonly used by many to describe how we are feeling when we are overwhelmed by something; debt, unemployment, stress at work, illness, an uncertain future. 
 
We have all felt as the psalmist that we are neck deep in water that is our woes, that are threatening to overwhelm us. And so, like the psalmist, we cry out to God to save us from the turbulent waters in life. With a mere word, God brought order out of the chaos of the waters at creation, and so also, can bring order and calm from whatever waters that may trouble us now.
 
Let us pray: Lord God, save us from the turbulent waters that threaten to undo us. Bring calm and a sense a peace that only you can give as we cry out to you for help. In Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.  
 
 
Posted By: 1/10/2021 9:14:13 AM

Sunday January 10, 2021
Reading: Mark 1:4-11 
 
And just as he was coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
- Mark 1:10 
 
All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) agree on one thing about Jesus' baptism, that the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. The dove came back to Noah with an olive branch in its mouth indicating that the waters had subsided and the land was appearing. Noah sent out a dove another time and did not return, indicating that the dove had found a new home in which to dwell on the earth (Genesis 8:11).The dove became a symbol of peace after the judgment of the flood. 
 
Doves were also used as a sacrifice at the temple.  Joseph and Mary likely brought a dove as a sacrifice following the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:22-24). The dove is only one of many symbols used for the Holy Spirit. Other symbols include wind, lamp, cloud, water, and oil. In the case of Jesus' baptism the dove is the symbol that was used to describe the Spirit coming upon Jesus as he was coming out of the water. 
 
I have a framed lithograph picture of a dove that is multicolored that hangs in my church office. it was a gift from my aunt Vicki, who is also my godmother. I have cherished that picture because it is from her but also it is a constant reminder to me of the power of the Spirit in my life, especially in times when things have been difficult The multi-colored dove reminds me of both the rainbow and dove present in the story of Noah and the flood as well as the baptism of Jesus. The Spirit of God is continually at work about us and within us to shape us and guide us in the ways of God. 
 
Let us pray: Breath on me breath of God, to inspire and renew me. Come Holy Spirit, descend upon me as a dove that leads me into the way of peace. Amen.  
 
Posted By: 1/9/2021 4:09:47 PM

Saturday, January 9, 2021
Reading: Luke 5:1-11 
 
Then Jesus said said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.  - Luke 5:10b-11
 
"Catching people" must have sounded like a strange notion to the fishermen who followed Jesus. They were, of course, used to catching fish. And that day on Lake Gennesaret they did just that, catch fish - a whole boatload of fish. So much fish, in fact, that their nets started to break and they boats began to sink. Jesus had to calm them down, "Do not be afraid," he told them. It's surprising, though, that after a catch like that, Simon and the others didn't insist that Jesus just stay with them and recruit him as a fellow fisherman. But it says that they left everything behind and followed Jesus. 
 
The big catch of fish is a symbol of the abundant life that Jesus wants to share with us. Jesus doesn't do things halfway to get our attention. He goes overboard with the net of plenty to demonstrate that this is what the reign of God is about. It's about abundance. There is more than enough fish here. So when they left everything to follow Jesus, you have to wonder if they left all the fish behind as well.
 
In this age of fear of not having enough in our culture, we are beckoned to move beyond this notion of scarcity and embrace the God of abundance. God gives us more than we need, not in order that we may hoard what we have. God wants us to share in our abundance with others and inviting them to join in the abundant life  that God offers in Christ. Catching people is what we are called to be about; for others to be "hooked on Jesus" as it were.  There is no complex plan for evangelism involved here. It is simply means loving others as we have been shown love. And if people catch onto being loved as Jesus loves, who knows what marvelous catch will take place.
 
Let us pray: Use us, O Lord, to be fishers of people as we share the love of Jesus in all that we say and do. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/9/2021 2:14:50 PM

Friday, January 8, 2021
Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 
 
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days, visions were not widespread.  - 1 Samuel 3:1 
 
The story of the call of Samuel is one of my favorite in all of scripture. Eli is the mentor to the boy Samuel in the temple and Eli's eyesight began to grow dim so he couldn't see. The lamp of the Lord had not yet gone out and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord. There is much symbolism going on here. "Visions were not widespread," and Eli's eyesight had grown dim. And the Lord is looking for a fresh set of eyes to see the vision of the Lord. But God doesn't first give Samuel a vision, he calls out his name, "Samuel! Samuel!" And the boy thinks that it's Eli calling him. So he goes to Eli in the dead of night and says, "Here I am, for you called me." Young Samuel is completely unaware that there is another voice calling his name, the voice of God. 
 
There is humor in this story. A comedy of errors, whereby, Samuel is continually getting up disturbing the old man Eli who was trying to get to sleep. Samuel is oblivious to the fact that God is calling him. Eli catches on that the one who is calling the boy is the Lord and so instructs him to wait upon the Lord and respond to him. Finally, "the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'" 
 
Sometimes it takes a two-by-four across the head for some to actually hear the call of God in their lives. I'm one of them. And perhaps this is why I am drawn to this story of the call of Samuel. It took a while for me to realize God's call for me to be a pastor. It first began when I was teaching Sunday school in a small Lutheran Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Sunday school superintendent asked me one day if I ever thought of being a pastor. I remember laughing about it and dismissing the notion. But the seed was planted. It wasn't until I was in college in my freshman year, when I was struggling to decide on my major, that the call came again. It was through a series of failures that opened my ears to God's call for me to be a pastor. I wanted to be a high school history teacher. I wasn't doing well in my history classes. I tried psychology, in hopes of going into counseling. I didn't do so well with those classes either. I even tried some music classes, thinking I could be a music teacher. But the classes seemed too difficult for me. My roommate was going into the ministry. I ended up becoming a Religion major with the intent on going to seminary. 
 
That's probably far more than you wanted to read for the reflection for today. But I hope that this story has a little message attached to it for you. We have various occupations, but we all have one calling. That calling involves the question, "What is God bidding you to do with your life at this moment to share his love with others?" We are all called to be part of God's invitation to share the love of God wherever we may find ourselves.
 
In light of what took place in our nation's capital on Wednesday, I would like to say that God's calling in our lives doesn't look like that. It is not a call for violence and insurrection.  It is a call which involves finding whatever way we can, within whatever power that we have,not to spread violence and hate but to spread the love of God in Christ.
 
Let us pray: Dear Lord, open up our senses to your calling us to be instruments of your peace wherever we find ourselves. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/7/2021 9:46:53 AM

Thursday, January 7, 2021
Reading: Psalm 29 
 
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. - Psalm 29:5-6 
 
The strong voice of the Lord is spoken in many ways throughout scripture. The voice of God speaks his word in the beginning in creation bringing forth life. God's voice spoke to Abraham calling him to become a great nation. God's voice spoke to Moses in a burning bush to tell pharaoh, "Let my people go!" The voice of God spoke through the prophets to speak a word to afflict the comfortable and comfort to those who were afflicted. God's voice spoke to his Son in his baptism, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." The voice of God spoke through his Spirit at Pentecost.
 
We hear the voice of God in many and various ways. When we hear the lessons read in worship. We hear the voice of God when the Word is preached.  We hear God's voice when someone pleads for justice and peace. We hear the voice of God in the cries of the poor and the hungry. 
 
Sometimes the strong voice of God is spoken in silence, as we know through the story of Elijah who sought the Lord who spoke to the prophet in a "still small voice." May you take time to listen to the voice of God who speaks his mighty word to you in many ways.
 
Let us pray: Speak O Lord, and open not only our ears but our hearts and minds to your voice that ultimately speaks love to all. Amen. 
Posted By: 1/6/2021 6:29:05 PM

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6 
 
They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.  - Isaiah 60:6b
 
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the three gifts the magi presented to Jesus according to Matthew 2:11. All three were considered as standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world. Gold is a precious metal. Frankincense is a perfume or incense. Myrrh is an anointing oil. Here in Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem's glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and "bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." 
 
Matthew's gospel doesn't include the number or the names of the magi but it has been the tradition of the Christian faith that the number of gifts lead to the belief that there were three wise men. The three gifts that were brought by the magi have a symbolic meaning that the writer of Matthew wants the reader to know about. All three gifts had a significant meaning; gold is the symbol of kingship on earth; frankincense, an incense, is a symbol of deity; and myrrh, an embalming oil, is a symbol for death or burial. 
 
We're all familiar with the Christmas carol, "The Little Drummer Boy." The lyrics of the carol suggests that the poor little drummer boy had no gift to bring for the king except to use his gift in playing his drum for the little king. Mary, the mother of our Lord, is well pleased with this gift given by the drummer boy who pours out his gift for the baby by way of a song.
 
What gifts do we have to offer the King Jesus? We all have God-given gifts to share. The desire of this newborn king is for us to share our gifts with others to further his kingdom. What gifts has God given to you? Every person have gifts to share. We may wish to deny it or downplay our gifts, but we each have gifts in which to share. We honor God, as the wisemen honored the King Jesus, by offering up our gifts freely. They are not for us to keep to ourselves or hold back. Gifts that are readily shared are more precious than silver or gold. For in giving freely of our gifts we please God.
 
Let us pray: Dear Lord, you have graciously given each of us gifts in which to share. May we so give of ourselves toward others that we may please you and also bring joy to our hearts. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/5/2021 9:18:13 PM

Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Reading: Proverbs 22:1-9 
 
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  - Proverbs 22:1
 
A few months ago our son and daughter-in-law visited us from Duluth to spend a brief time with us. As it turned out, they wanted to meet with us face-to-face to share their exciting news that they were expecting a child. A week ago, Monday, our son called us to share some further news with us that they learned from their visit with the doctor that they were going to have a boy. Immediately, we stared talking about possible names. I facetiously suggested the name Buster. But they didn't like the name, Buster Brown. They're still working on choosing a name for their boy. 
 
In a particular edition of Luther's Small Catechism, I noticed in the explanation to the Fourth Petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," when he asks, " What is meant by daily bread?"he includes among other things, such as, food, clothing, shelter, good government, a good name. What Martin Luther meant by this, as it's included in other editions of the Small Catechism, a good reputation. Having a good name means keeping one's good reputation intact. 
 
Having a good reputation is an important thing in life. When you go to interview for a job, you're not going to get far if you don't have a good reputation. If you're dream is to be married someday, you're probably not going to find a partner who is committed to being married with you if you don't have a good reputation. When you go to the bank for a loan, you're not going to get that loan that you've requested if your name is attached to bad credit. 
 
There are some pretty shady characters in history whose names were tarnished forever because their names were associated with some bad behavior. Conversely, you're name will last forever in the annuls of history in a good way if you have done some good or charitable things in your life. 
 
As you think about your own name, you may conjure up all sorts of experiences in your life in which you feel proud or repelled. I think that we all want to make a good name for ourselves. But I also think that we cannot help but wonder about those times in our lives when our behavior has tarnished our name a bit. I can think of moments in my life whereby I wasn't so proud of my actions and counted as a mark against my name what I'd just assume keep intact as being good. So I can see why the writer of Proverbs esteems a good name more desirable than riches, more than silver or gold. 
 
God knows us inside and out, and yet, the good news is that God still forgives us and calls us his beloved children. Thanks be to God for his grace and mercy. 
 
Let us pray: O God, I have been named, claimed, and called to be your very own in Holy Baptism. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/4/2021 4:52:14 PM

Monday, January 4, 2021
Reading: Proverbs 3:1-12 
 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  - Proverbs 3:5 
 
"In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act. " - George Orwell.
 
Truth telling may be a difficult thing these days, but it eventually has a way of exposing lies. People will twist the truth for their own means, especially those in power, who wish to hold onto that power so that they can continue to manipulate others. This is why the writer of Proverbs says that we are not to rely on our own insight, but to trust in the Lord with all our hearts.
 
Our insights are often muddled with selfish motives. We will share, for example, the truth about something but do it in a way that will still benefit us or not get us into trouble. This is why before a witness in a courtroom takes the stand in a trial, and I'm relying on Perry Mason here, that he or she is asked, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; so help you God?" I'm not sure what witnesses are asked these days before they take the stand but maybe the part about "so help you God," has been taken out. 
 
Jesus said, "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). There is much more to telling the truth than just not telling lies. There is the truth that comes from God which is unchangeable and universal that puts to shame our insight and knowledge. It is derived from the pure motive of love that is not contaminated by human self interest or greed. It brings us to our knees because it exposes who we are and our need for God. Indeed, this Truth will set us free, because it comes from God whose character is good.
 
Let us pray: O Lord, you are the Truth, the Way, and the Life for our lives. May we come to trust you with our whole being. Amen.  
Posted By: 1/2/2021 10:21:42 AM

Sunday, January 3, 2021
Reading: John 1:1-18 
 
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.  - John 1:12 
 
We have a part to play in God's grand scheme of things. When you think about it, it seems pretty awesome and also pretty overwhelming. As children of God, we don't sit idly by to just watch what things unfold in the world. As children of God we actively participate in what is going on in the world as the hands, feet, and voice of God in Christ. 
 
The motto of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is "God's Work, Our Hands." It is a fitting motto for a church that is actively involved in Gods work in the world to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in what we say and do. Christ's ministry continues through us as an expression of God's love for the world.
 
Every year our congregation is involved with many others ELCA churches across the nation for a one day event called, "God's Work, Our Hands." We actively move out into the community to demonstrate the love of God in helping the neighbor in need. Members of Immanuel have been the "hands of God" in various ways each year. I can recall, one year in particular, when we visited residents of Elim Care Center and Called House. Some of us read stories, others played games, and there were those who made crafts with some of the residents. By the end of the day we were all smiling as our hearts were filled with joy of interacting with one another.
 
In his prologue, when John speaks about "believing in his name," it involves a transformation. Belief is not a mental ascent or an exercise in feeling good about God. There is a change of one's heart and mind, which has to do with entrusting our lives to God in Christ. It means living and breathing as children of God. It isn't just a Sunday morning thing. It is a seven days a week and twenty-four hours a day thing. We are God's children, living for the sake of God's love for the world in Jesus Christ. 
 
Let us pray: Your Word is infused into our lives, O Christ. May that Word breath life in what we say and do in the world you love so much. Amen. 
Posted By: 1/2/2021 9:36:09 AM

Saturday, January 2, 2021
Reading: James 3:13-18 
 
For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.  - James 3:16 
 
Martin Luther took issue with the book of James. Luther said, "Therefore, St. James' epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it." The issue that Luther had the most difficulty with regarding the book of James is that it seemed to contradict Paul in opposition of the doctrine that we are justified by grace through faith alone. The book of James says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). I'm not sure that I'm in agreement with Luther on this, as no where does James suggest that works leads to our salvation. Works is a result or consequence of it.
 
Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:16).  We speak the words, "I love you all the time," but that love is empty unless it is backed by some sort of action. Love is as love does. God demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son who died for us. We show our love toward others by the act of giving, in which we move beyond ourselves or any selfish ambition toward helping the neighbor. This act of giving does not earn love or acceptance but rather is a result or the fruit of love that has reached us. 
 
The Song of Solomon does not mention God and yet it is part of the canon of Scripture. The book of James has much to teach us about the Christian life as it reflects the life and teachings of Christ. As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are, as Luther said, "To be as little Christs." As his followers, we are to emulate Christ's life and teachings. This certainly is not as a way of being right with God but is the resulting fruit of the love that he has first shown to us.  
 
Let us pray: O Lord, teach us to reach out in love toward others as we set aside all selfish ambition, and be as "little Christ's" in his name. Amen. 
Posted By: 1/1/2021 12:24:30 PM

Friday, January 1, 2021
Reading: Numbers 6:22-27 
 
The LORD bless you and keep you.  - Numbers 6:24 
 
How fitting it seems to begin the New Year with the Aaronic Blessing. As I began to write this meditation, it occurred to me that this is the first time that I have written (or in this case typed) 2021. We are not altogether sad to say goodbye to 2020. And what a year it has been. The world-wide pandemic has been all the news. It seems all too strange and surreal to us, that something that we could not see with the naked eye would be something that has caused so much death and destruction in the world. Our lives will hopefully get back to some semblance of normalcy.
 
The Christmas cards that we received from friends and family this season has included letters which tells how much COVID-19 has affected their lives. In some cases, lives have been lost. A family member, a co-worker, a neighbor or a friend of theirs has died because of the virus. There are stories of hardships that COVID created with some becoming unemployed, others have had too remain isolated for several months, trips that were planned cancelled, students going to online learning, and the list goes on. 
 
How fitting it seems to usher in the New Year with a blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." We are all in much need of a blessing such as this as we begin this year. We are accustomed to hearing this blessing at the end of worship. But as we look forward to a better year than we had this past year, what better way to begin it than with a blessing. We are in need of this special blessing of God' countenance; his calming, supportive, and steady gaze upon us. God seeks to protect us and give us his peace that only he can give. We are certainly in need of some peace this year. Happy New Year! God bless you!
 
Let us pray: Indeed your face shines upon us always, Lord God, but we ask in this prayer that you watch over us this year as we seek healing and restoration. In Jesus' name. Amen.  
Posted By: 12/31/2020 6:02:39 PM

Thursday, December 31, 2020
Reading: John 8:12-19 
 
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 
 
When I was a child my mother would tuck me in to bed at night and say to me, "Night, night, sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite." It's strange that this would give me comfort, but it did. I must never have thought of those bed bugs which could have bitten me. We fortunately didn't have bed bugs with which to contend. Thank goodness! But another thing made me afraid - the darkness. So I would always tell me mom to keep the hall light on and keep the door open a crack. I don't know why I was so afraid of the dark. Maybe it was that I couldn't see things in the darkness. Or my imagination got the best of me and I was afraid that the "boogeyman" was going to get me from under my bed.  
 
Darkness is a metaphor in scripture for unbelief or lack of trust. We hear in Isaiah 9:2: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." We hear these words during the seasons of Advent and Christmas as they point to Christ who comes as the one who is the light to show people the way to God and God's coming in him. As we are nearing the season of Epiphany, the season of light, we will be hearing passages which will reveal Christ as the manifestation of God's purpose on earth, leading people out of the darkness into his brilliant light. 
 
In this passage in John's Gospel we hear Jesus say, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." There is a wonderful hymn, "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light." The words of the first stanza reads, "I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world, The star of my life is Jesus. In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus." 
 
Jesus' illuminating presence in our lives dispels the darkness of fear and doubt in our lives.  There is nothing with which we are to be afraid. God is with us. 
 
Let us pray: O Lord, you are the light of the world that illuminates the path we are to walk with you - a path that leads to all peace. Amen.  
Posted By: 12/30/2020 1:01:14 PM

Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Reading: Proverbs 9:1-12 
 
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  - Proverbs 9:10 
 
What does it mean to fear God?  Martin Luther's colleague and collaborator, Phillip Melanchthon, talks about two kinds of fear. There is what is called filial fear and servile fear. Filial fear is a type of respect and love that a child has for a parent. It is a fear of offending the one that they adore and trust the most. Whereas, servile fear, by contrast, is the kind of fear that a prisoner has for his jailer or executioner. 
 
Solomon says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the filial fear, as a child has for a parent, that we're talking about here. It is an awe and respect we have for God, not a fear and trembling, that the writer of proverbs is getting at. To love and respect God means that we have a desire to know God and God's ways. It's foolish to believe that we possess any wisdom on our own. God is the creator of all things, not one thing has come into being without him. 
 
When I think about wisdom, I think about my grandmother who was as wise a person I have ever known. There were times in her life that were not easy. Through struggle and hardship she became wise. Experience taught her much which she, in turn,  handed down to others. I loved her and respected her and wanted to learn from her because she spoke and acted with wisdom. 
 
The wisdom of God is far greater than human wisdom, including my grandmother's. We hear in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," says the Lord. "As for the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  If we are to more clearly understand scripture, especially as we understand it to be God's Word, then we ought to pray for wisdom, that is, to seek to understand and desire God's thoughts and ways. In doing so, we put aside our agendas and our self-serving interpretation of it. Too often, we use the Bible for our own means and purposes, rather than as an unadulterated word that comes to us, allowing God to speak to us more clearly and fully. 
 
Let us pray: Your wisdom, O God, is far greater than we can ever comprehend. Teach us your thoughts and to know your ways, O God. Amen.  
Posted By: 12/29/2020 5:44:51 PM

Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Reading: Isaiah 49:5-15 
 
"Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; bust into song, you mountains! For the Lord  comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."  - Isaiah 49:13 
 
There are plenty of images of God as an angry judge in the scriptures. But there are also images of God who is full of compassion, seeking to comfort his people, such as this passage in Isaiah. We tend to want to separate the two images as though we have two Gods, whereas, in actuality we have one God whose character displays anger as well as compassion. We are limited in our human perception of God, which is why we anthropomorphize God, giving human-like qualities to the divine. 
 
When I was a child, I leaned toward believing in an angry God whose wrath would come down upon me if I would make a misstep. Perhaps I learned about this kind of God in Sunday school or hearing a "hell, fire, and brimstone" preacher once or twice. Or maybe this perception of God was based on the closest authority figure in my life, my own father. My father tended to be stern and judgmental. You wouldn't want to experience his wrath. Punishment wasn't meted out by any physical means, except I remember a spanking or two, but by his voice which was loud and commanding. I feared my father, and so, for the most part I was well-behaved. 
  
It wasn't until  I was in college and at seminary that I came to believe and embrace a God of love and compassion. Mind you, I didn't quite let go of the God of anger and wrath that I'd grown up with. I still believe that God becomes angry with us. Anger is not a bad thing, for the underlying feeling of anger is hurt. We are hurt by others or we do things that cause harm to ourselves. God becomes angry, I think, when he sees someone being mistreated. 
 
When our primary understanding of God is that of an angry judge whose wrath is ready to be unleashed upon us when we make a misstep, we will want to distance or even try to hide ourselves from God. But when our primary understanding of God is that of care and compassion toward us, we are drawn to this God in whom we desire to come closer. 
 
Let us pray: O God, we rejoice that you love us and have compassion on us whenever we are hurting in any way. As we come closer to you, help us to reach out toward others with the same love that you have shown to us. In Jesus' name. Amen.  
Posted By: 12/28/2020 10:56:39 AM

Comments:
Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

Guest8/20/2020 6:39:53 AM
Goes right with the hymn “We Are Called”. Now that will be going through my head for awhile. Suggestion: Could this Post a Comment be right below the daily blog every day? Otherwise you have to scroll down to the bottom of all to find it.

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Vicky 8/19/2020 8:06:34 AM
This is so needed in our “Today’s” world for everyone. Once again Trust God and Have Faith! Thanks Pastor. (Cabin fresh air let me sleep in till 6:30 today.) 😊

Guest8/18/2020 9:38:24 AM
Thanks for your feedback Vicky. I wondered if I was posting the reflections too late for some, like yourself. I am going to try to do them a day early so I'm ahead of the game. Although, when I say this, I realize that I am already behind.

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Vicky Anderson8/9/2020 8:29:08 AM
I will miss your devotions but I like the idea of interacting. However I wish you could post earlier as I like my spiritual time early in the morning. I was always reading your devotional a day late so I could do my devotions at 5-6 am when I wake up.

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